Tom Foreman | Bio
You don’t jump on the scales an hour after you push aside the doughnuts; you don’t pull out the Bermudas until at least late spring (and frankly, a good many of you should not do it at all – trust me) and the Obama White House might be better off if it were not already trying to roll out reports on how well the stimulus plan is working.
That is the consensus among some political and economic analysts, who suggest the Vice President’s progress report on the program, while laudable, is like those predictions of Hillary Clinton’s 2012 campaign – a tad premature.
Let’s look at just one part: Jobs. Vice President Biden confidently reports that 150,000 jobs have already been created or saved by stimulus spending, even though the money has been flowing only since mid-February. That number, however, is not an actual count of jobs. It is a White House estimate based on a mathematical formula that goes something like, “If Farmer Brown’s government spends $29 billion to create jobs in Punkyville, how many jobs will be created?”
Although there are undeniably new jobs out there, the White House does not expect any concrete reports on which jobs were created where until late summer or fall. In addition, the emphasis is on the “jobs saved” part of that statement since the stimulus money that hit the ground fastest is the cash that went to state governments to prevent possible layoffs.
And unmentioned in the rosy report from the Vice President is what the Department of Labor has to say: Unemployment continues to rise, and in April it was knocking on the door of nine percent, with close to 14 million Americans jobless. You can see why critics are chuckling. While the creation or protection of any jobs in the current environment can rightfully draw praise against the backdrop of our monumental economic troubles, 150,000 seems anemic, if not at least incremental.
One measure of how early we are in this process lies in the tally of money actually out the door. The stimulus plan calls for spending almost $790 billion dollars, or roughly what it would cost Trump to get his hair fixed. However, less than $29 billion has been spent so far. The Vice President cheerfully predicts the jobs, the growth, the recovery will all steadily move up as more money is spent and more months pass. (Vice Presidents, by the way, are paid to be cheerful (Dick Cheney not withstanding). Critics, meanwhile, say this report shows the government is either spending too much or too little, is clueless or helpless.
But mainly this report is early – too early to prove whether the stimulus is working or not.
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